THE Northern Territory government has announced that it will fund the construction of a ship lift, used to lift vessels out of the water so they can be serviced, repaired or stored, including for safety during cyclones.

The planned 103 metre facility will be capable of servicing large vessels from industries including offshore petroleum, fishing, pearling, defence and border force.

“Darwin is the logical place to build a ship lift – it is the only functional deep water harbour in Northern Australia. Large vessels currently travel at least 10 days to be serviced elsewhere,” the NT government said in a statement.

The NT government has committed $100m to the $400m project and will seek funding from the federal government, the Northern Australian Infrastructure Facility, or further NT government investment.

Territory-owned and headquartered Paspaley Group is partnering with the NT government on the ship lift which will be constructed on government-owned land and operated by Paspaley under a 10-year renewable agreement.

The Paspaley Group own and maintain a large fleet of vessels, with many sailing in and out of Darwin harbour on a regular basis. The vessels currently maintained in Darwin will help ensure the commercial viability of the ship lift.

The facility will dry dock and launch vessels, and up to 150 vessels are expected to use the ship lift every year.


The ship lift at East Arm will bring $260m into the NT economy every year, according to the government. It will create about 100 jobs during the construction phase, lead to an expansion of the ship building and repairs and maintenance industry, and generate around 400 direct and indirect ongoing jobs during its operation.

The facility will operate on a commercial basis with access available to all customers. The independent Utilities Commission will oversee pricing and access.

Key design features of the ship lift include:

  • 20ha of hard stand area for ship repair and maintenance works;
  • A 103-metre ship lift capable of lifting vessels up to 5000 tonnes;
  • 4 wet berths (wharves).

The engineering, design and construction contract will be awarded in late 2020, enabling construction to commence during 2021. Construction is anticipated to take 2 years, enabling the facility to be operating in 2023.